Link between Heart Disease and Depression

You cannot be in high spirits when you find out that you have a disease, can you? Rather, you keep thinking of the best option to tackle the new development in the body. And as time goes on, you develop yet another debilitating condition which can render you deadly in no time — and that is depression. There is a high risk of developing depression when you have heart or cardiovascular disease and vice versa.

What exactly is the relationship between cardiovascular disease and depression? How do both mental and cardio conditions relate? Before giving scientific proofs or answers to those questions, let us first consider what heart disease means and why people contract it in the first place.

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is a range of conditions that affect the function of the heart due to narrowed or blocked blood vessels. This condition is caused by plague, a substance that builds up in the walls of arteries. When this happens, the arteries are narrowed, making it extremely difficult for blood to flow. There are different types of heart diseases.

What exactly causes this problem? As earlier mentioned, it is caused by the buildup of plaque, creating a very big chance of narrowing the walls of coronary arteries. This makes the muscles of the heart to starve severely of oxygen, making the individual involved to experience chest pain known as angina. It is, in fact, the leading cause of death in the U.S, U.K, Canada, and Australia. 

Having examined closely what heart disease is, what link does it have with depression? This has since been a concern for medical experts. Recently, a body of medical experts has established the connection between depression and heart disease. From the data amassed by researchers, people with cardiovascular disease are more likely to develop depression and those with depression are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This was known because of the better diagnostic tools, continuous research and studies carried out, scientific innovations, and increased prevalence of the disease.

Researchers from Cambridge University, U.K carried out their findings and came to a conclusion that may seem surprising. This study was headed by Golam Khandaker, a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellow at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge.

The Link Between Heart Disease and Depression

The researchers examined data of the UK Biobank, which comprises of 370,000 individuals between the ages of 40 and 69. Their investigation consisted of three components to find out the link between both conditions.

First, they examined whether a family history of cardiovascular disease was a culprit of depression. In this first examination, they found that surely family history of cardiovascular disease was a predictor of depression.

Second, they examined the role genetic predisposition play in these conditions. To get accuracy, they had to calculate the genetic risk score for heart disease. But to their surprise, nothing of such exists — they found that there is no genetic predisposition between heart disease and depression.

They wondered with great wonderment what could be if genes do not play a role. Consequently, they shifted their attention to an environmental factor. This led to the third component of their investigation — the use of Mendelian randomization analysis for heart disease and various heart disease factors to determine whether any of the factors was a culprit behind the development of depression.  They used the technique to analyze three possible biomarkers for the risk of heart disease and are known to be risk factors for depression. These three biomarkers, they said, are triglycerides and the proteins which are closely related to inflammation — IL-6 and CRP, shortened form for interleukin-6 and C-reactive proteins respectively.

IL-6 is produced by various cells of the body. This inflammation protein, together with CRP, responds vibrantly to physiological and lifestyle factors such as infections, stress, smoking, and drinking. People with treatment-resistant depression have also been found to have high markers of inflammation.
They also noted that levels of these biomarkers are high in some patients during an acute depressive episode.

With this new study, there are high hopes that certain anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to treat patients with depression.

With the aid of the Mendelian randomization, they found out that heart disease and depression share common underlying biological mechanisms.

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